Smart meters: boon or boondoggle?
San Antonio’s municipal utility says smart meters are a boon to the city and customers. Opponents say the devices are a boondoggle.
“While utilities promise the ‘smart grid’ will solve climate change, no independent evidence of energy savings have been demonstrated,” says Josh Hart, director of the California-based group Stop Smart Meters.
“The same story of financial fabrication — utilities playing fast and loose with the public purse — is being repeated across the country,” Hart told Watchdog.org.
With a new 12-page report, Stan Mitchell, a retired financial analyst living in San Antonio, accuses CPS Energy of engaging in “conscious obfuscation.”
The city-owned utility initially said installation costs of $290 million would be recovered over 12 years. But the calculations did not factor in financing costs, which will, by Mitchell’s estimate, extend the payoff period to 20 years.
Further, CPS assigned a 15-year lifespan to the meters, and did not include replacement costs in its accounting.
Hart said smart meters don’t last that long.
“While analog meters were built solidly of metal and glass and lasted 80-plus years, smart meters are made of plastic and vulnerable to melting and starting fires, and they need to be replaced every 5-10 years,” he said.
“In no universe is this a wise public investment, and represents a con and theft from the public purse.”
CPS spokesman Paul Flaningan told Watchdog the smart grid project will save the utility $2.20 for every dollar spent. Savings stem largely from the redeployment of meter readers and “improved meter accuracy,” he said.
Smart meter vendors say their devices “capture energy that was not monitored in the past by electro-mechanical meters.”
In the switch to digital meters, CPS acknowledged a few of the first 300,000 transitioned customers received sharply higher bills. Flaningan said some readings were erroneous; others were a “truing up” of actual usage.